From the National Theatre: “We must get the conditions of life made fairer. We women must organize. We must learn to work together. We have all (rich and poor, happy and unhappy) worked so long and so exclusively for men, we hardly know how to work for each other. But we must learn.”
The rallying cry of Miss Vida Levering, the rebellious protagonist of Elizabeth Robins’ 1907 play, Votes for Women, reminds one how much, and how little, has changed during the last one hundred years. The play is an unapologetic propaganda piece which makes a forceful plea for alternative narratives for women outside of marriage and motherhood. As President of the Women Writers’ Suffrage League, formed in 1908, the American actress turned activist was dedicated to achieving political change by “the use of the pen”. Votes for Women was classified by its author as a “dramatic tract”. It emerged directly from the women’s suffrage movement and voiced the playwright’s personal quest for political and social reform, while also tackling a series of taboo issues such as illegal abortion, unmarried motherhood and presenting a radical critique of male sexuality.